Socialism is not merely Anti-Capitalism

FFS! Why are the propertarians so hell-bent in appropriating all the concepts of socialists for their own ends? Libertarianism was twisted to mean Capitalist Minarchism. Anarchism has been pulled over by the AnCaps trying to make it mean Private State Capitalism. And now Libertarian Socialism? Will it ever end? Will you leave us no term untainted? What next? Communism?

No wait, that one has only been taken over by the statists instead…

Ok, enough ranting, lets look at why Brad Spangler believes that Agorism is a valid LibSoc movement.

His confusion seems to emanate from misunderstanding what Socialism entails. He is under the impression that socialism means simply anti-currently-existing-capitalism which is patently false. Socialists were never merely interested in shallow opposition to the current status quo but rather against all the building blocks of what makes capitalism. Socialists recognise that the exploitation coming from Capitalism, the wage-slavery, rent and usury that is rampart in our society stems from Private Property and the possibility of accumulation it repressents.

Of course Socialists spend the most energy criticizing the current system rather than any fantasy laissez-faire utopia Liberals could think of but it’s a great jump to consider that this was their only opposition and therefore as long as someone proposes a non-contemporary capitalist system, they are also “socialists.”

Basically, the point that Brad confuses is this

* Labor-based ownership rights? Check.

Socialism is not simply labour-based ownership rights. It is persistent labour-based ownership rights. That is,  the ownership of any capital or land is held by whoever is currently working it. In other words: via Possession. This is a profoundly anti-propertarian proposition as it would prevent the basic concepts that make capitalism capitalist: The Capitalist mode of production Or more specifically Wage-labour (and also Rent.)

While under Agorism the theoretical initial redistribution of ownership rights made after a revolutionary effort might be based on labour (although I fail to see how their theory aims to achieve this), they would not change the system so as to prevent wage-labour or rent. This means that very soon, the inequalities would start to amass, people will be turned into proletarians en masse and de-facto states (those private defense companies) will be required to prevent the class struggle from escalating once more. Enter democratization of the states to pacify the proletariat and you’re back where you started.

So unless your main purpose is to manage to allow all workers to own the capital and land they are working on, you are no socialist. And to extend that, unless your main purpose also includes the abolition of all hierarchy and domination of human over human, you’re neither an Anarchist or a Libertarian. A system therefore which will not systematically prevent wage-slavery (a mode of production encompassing both non-worker-onwership of capital and hierarchy) cannot be Libertarian Socialist.

And if you’re such a Libertarian Socialist who still wishes to have free markets as well. Then you’re a Mutualist, not an “Anarcho”-Capitalist.

A clarifying question might be this: Do you embrace the free markets because you believe they will achieve egalitarianism (ie allow the workers to own the means of production?) If so, you’re indeed socialist but such a perspective would require that you reject the free markets if you discover that they cannot, in fact, achieve this goal. However, if you’re for free markets and private property in principle whether wage-slavery, rent, usury and vast inequality will persist or not (but just think they won’t) then you are no socialist.

Agorism fails this test. If does not worry about whether labour-based ownership will remain after their revolutionary change but only that past aggression is reneged according to propertarian principles and afterwards, come what may. But those propertarian principles are also a result of the past aggression and unless they are abolished as well, the fix will be impotent.

This kind of confusion seems to be very common in those who do not seem to understand Anarchist or Socialist thought. The same way that Anarchism is mistakenly conflated with Anti-Statism, now we see Socialism being mistakenly conflated with Anti-Capitalism and ending up with absurd propositions such as a “Socialist” system which would have the capitalist mode of production as dominant or an “Anarchist” society where people enter voluntary slavery or simply sell their liberty piecemeal. People refuse to understand the political history behind these two concepts and use their own definitions.

So yeah, if you simply define Socialism as merely Anti-Capitalism, then all sorts of things become “Socialist”.  Feudalism for example. However defining yourself into Libertarian Socialism would still not make you a LibSoc as the greater LibSoc movement defines itself. Much like Socialism, so does Libertarian Socialism not apply via self-description either and to pursue such a path is to unnecessary muddle the waters and provide the appearance of infighting to outsiders.

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43 thoughts on “Socialism is not merely Anti-Capitalism

  1. "However, if you’re for free markets and private property in principle whether wage-slavery, rent, usury and vast inequality will persist or not (but just think they won’t) then you are no socialist."

    There are several self-described mutualists (myself included) that don't believe in consequentialist justifications for private property, and borrow from Locke (esp.) regarding original acquisition. Are we suddenly not socialists? Of course, agorism, if we look at is as a revolutionary strategy, doesn't have to be linked to strict Rothbardian ends; eg., see Rad Geek's various discussions on the relationship between socialism and agorism — as always, they're very insightful and informative.

  2. “Are we suddenly not socialists? “

    I don't know. Do you believe that ownership rights should be based on use or not? Do you think that wage-slavery is not problematic or inherently exploitative? Do you think that free markets can only be free within an egalitarian framework or is inequality not a problem?

    1. I would like someone to define "use". You don't have to do it here, in the comments, but it seems to me that there's a lot of confusion here (or maybe I'm not that smart). Who "owns" my car when I'm not driving it? Who "owns" my lawnmower or my table-saw when I'm not operating them?

      1. You're mostly talking about abandonment which is not the most important issue. What constitutes abandonment can be decided via the social norms of society (ie, it's up to the people themselves to decide it) The important issue is whether one can be considered to "use" capital that is worked by wage-workers. Under possession (ie property and use) this is not possible.

    2. "I don't know. Do you believe that ownership rights should be based on use or not?"

      Sure. I think failing to use land for a period of time should constitute abandonment of that property. Renting is cool with me (I don't think it's grounds for abandonment), but I think things would look entirely different under anarchy.

      "Do you think that wage-slavery is not problematic or inherently exploitative?"

      You mean wage labor in general, or the system of wage-slavery as it currently exists? I believe that there is a sort of systemic exploitation of wage workers in an "unfree market," but that in a freed market, real exploitation would be limited to isolated incidents (like taking advantage of the ignorant), which, while morally problematic, doesn't seem to be sufficient grounds for coercive action. So I'm OK with a wage-system proper. (And so was Tucker, btw.)

      "Do you think that free markets can only be free within an egalitarian framework or is inequality not a problem?"

      I'm not entirely sure what an "egalitarian framework" is (equality of opportunity?), but I'll do my best. My point is that free markets will consistently lead to greater equality in wealth and income, which, while concerns of mine, aren't conceptually necessary for a market to be considered free. However, I think free markets presuppose equality of opportunity.

      1. Sure. I think failing to use land for a period of time should constitute abandonment of that property. Renting is cool with me (I don't think it's grounds for abandonment), but I think things would look entirely different under anarchy.

        How is renting cool when your ownership is based on use? Obviously the rentor is not using the property but the person living or working in it does. Renting is simply a way to earn money without working. Why do you not have a problem with this?

      2. You mean wage labor in general

        I mean wage labour in general. You seem to be saying that if wage-labour is made possible in a free market then you would have no problem with it. Similar as to rent. By this I have to conclude that you are not really a socialist but simply not hostile to socialism if a free market goes in that direction. I couldn't care less what Tucker was OK with but if you cannot see the need for coercion when someone is exploiting workers (either because they are mentally challenged or because they are passively coerced via starvation or homelessness) then this will be a point of contention.

      3. I'm not entirely sure what an "egalitarian framework" is (equality of opportunity?)

        A system which systematically does not allow anyone to accumulate wealth in such a way as to achieve an inequal power to the rest. Such as is the position of someone who can Rent land or Capital.

        My point is that free markets will consistently lead to greater equality in wealth and income, which, while concerns of mine, aren't conceptually necessary for a market to be considered free.

        You are using the same argument another Market Anarchist had used in the past for me. You are fetishizing free markets and abstracting it to a degree that makes it useless. Markets cannot consistently lead to a greater equality of wealth and income. This is an assertion based on fantastical concepts with no relation to reality. The empirical evidence points to the fact that starting from inequality, the free markets will extend and deepen such inequality.

        1. db0: I'm limited on time, so I'd prefer to keep the conversation from going off on tangents, if possible, and stick to the question of what defines a socialist.

          "I mean wage labour in general. You seem to be saying that if wage-labour is made possible in a free market then you would have no problem with it. Similar as to rent. By this I have to conclude that you are not really a socialist but simply not hostile to socialism if a free market goes in that direction. I couldn't care less what Tucker was OK with…"

          That's the thing. Was Ben Tucker a socialist? Because (if I understand him correctly), I've yet to deviate from his positions on wages. (FWIW, I do disagree with him elsewhere, which might be relevant to the question of whether I'm a socialist.) And while most social anarchists appear to be fine with Tucker labeling himself a socialist despite his view on wages, you seem to think my positions render me as a non-socialist, yet non-capitalist sort of person. (Is this your view of Spangler?) So if we're talking about being anti-wage labor as being a necessary constituent of socialism, as I believe you are suggesting, then I think you're committed to considering Tucker a non-socialist. Which leads me to one of two plausible conclusions. Either:

          1) Most social anarchists understood Tucker's position in full and they share a different definition of libertarian socialism than you.
          2) Most social anarchists are mistaken about Tucker.

          I'm not entirely sure which of these is the case, but if it's (1), then it appears to undermine your case about anti-capitalistic individualists like Brad "hijacking" libertarian socialism. But I suspect it's (2).

          1. That's the thing. Was Ben Tucker a socialist?

            For me it isn't. First, I have not studied Tucker at all in order to be able to make a decision either way. Certainly I know that LibSocs consider him one of their own but I am not absolutely clear on why, seeing his support for wage-labour. Given this, I will refrain from labelling him unless I manage to learn more about his ideas.

            There is also a third option that you have not mentioned, 3) Most Individualist anarchists are mistaken about Tucker.

            In this case, it might be foe example that while Tucker seems to be superficially suggesting wage-labour he was also expecting such labour within a free market to be earning the full product of its labour rather than a lower wage. i.e. be a co-op partner for all practical ends. Certainly his general ideas seem to point in that direction, although of course I am not certain I understand why such a position is called as "wage"-labour. Perhaps he is using "wage" in the same way as Marx did in order to mean, "all income coming from labour" rather than "the reward for one's labour-power when working under a capitalist". If that is the case, then this is a definitional difference between Tucker and me rather than a ideological one.

          2. So if we're talking about being anti-wage labor as being a necessary constituent of socialism, as I believe you are suggesting

            Not exactly. I consider acceptance of Possession as the only legitimate ownership rights to be the necessary constituent of socialism. Such an view on ownership would make all concepts of Wage-labour and Rent systematically unfeasible in the first place. This is why I criticize those who still cling to propertarian ideas as unwittingly supporting wage-labour and other forms of usury. In short, I take an utilitarian rather than a ideological approach. You seem to take the latter, where you support the free market, come-what-may.

          3. Thanks for the clarification.

            I would assert that Brad isn't doing anything terribly different than the classical individualists who called themselves socialists. Seeing as how you'd probably have a problem with most of those individualist anarchists adopting the socialist label based on your own criteria, then there isn't anything particularly new about this (perhaps wrongheaded) tendency. Personally, taking a look at the organization of their ideal society, with liberty providing the basis for equality, I don't think the individualists were misusing the term.

          4. Personally, taking a look at the organization of their ideal society, with liberty providing the basis for equality, I don't think the individualists were misusing the term.

            While those early individualist socialists might have been using the term, I think it was also accurate as they were supporting a possessive system which was based fairly much on the results it would bring. The biggest change that exists in this case though is that the kind of individualism of Agorism, has also introduced private property which as I've explained eslewhere is the biggest break from socialist systems.

      4. I'm not entirely sure what an "egalitarian framework" is (equality of opportunity?)

        A system which systematically does not allow anyone to accumulate wealth in such a way as to achieve an inequal power to the rest. Such as is the position of someone who can Rent land or Capital.

        My point is that free markets will consistently lead to greater equality in wealth and income, which, while concerns of mine, aren't conceptually necessary for a market to be considered free.

        You are using the same argument another Market Anarchist had used in the past for me. You are fetishizing free markets and abstracting it to a degree that makes it useless. Markets cannot consistently lead to a greater equality of wealth and income. This is an assertion based on fantastical concepts with no relation to reality. The empirical evidence points to the fact that starting from inequality, the free markets will extend and deepen such inequality.

  3. "Do you embrace the free markets because you believe they will achieve egalitarianism (ie allow the workers to own the means of production?) If so, you’re indeed socialist but such a perspective would require that you reject the free markets if you discover that they cannot, in fact, achieve this goal."

    Fair enough.

    1. Exactly, Francois. I've been saying this for years.

      Although it does make me wonder… is egalitarianism some sort of end in itself, as well? Don't many socialists pursue egalitarianism "in principle", regardless of how it's achieved? I wonder if genuine human freedom and flourishing in all its aspects can be captured by a mere philosophy term. Just something to keep in mind as we play these word games.

      1. Don't many socialists pursue egalitarianism "in principle", regardless of how it's achieved?

        Depends on the socialist. State Socialists or Vanguardists certainly. Anarchists no. Anarchists consider that the means we use cannot be separated from the ends. Unless of course you mean "regardless of how it's achieved?" in the sense of that we don't care if we achieve it via syndicalism, mutualism or something else, as long as the means are also LibSoc and have a possibility of success. In that you are correct.

        1. Then it does seem a shame that we lay so much emphasis on nailing the schools of thought when what really makes people's lives better are achieving certain conditions that, by and large, everybody agrees on.

          Are we separated by our advocacy of conflicting means and not by conflicting ends? If so, I question the degree to which we stress the theory. Agreement on the ends should result in the means being able to be judged on a common basis, no? And in that case, I fail to see why we insist on occupying opposite poles of the ideological axis.

          1. Depending on your ideology of course but in general LibSocs of any platform are not very much separated by the means since they are not counter-productive to each other's purposes. For example as a Communist I have no issue at all with Co-operatives and Mutual Banks etc even though I do not consider them to be enough by themselves to bring down the capitalist system. Likewise, I do not expect a Mutualist to be opposed to Unions (as long as they're sufficiently anarchistic of course), communes and the like. While we advocate different tactics, we are still united in suggesting basically Direct Action and Mutual Aid rather than wasting our energy in promoting parliamentarism or mafia-like protection agencies or what-have-you.

            On the other hand, while some may have superficially common ends with LibSocs, their suggestion of means and theory behind their ideology make any such alliance impossible. Such is the case with the AnCaps and the State Socialists for example.

      2. Don't many socialists pursue egalitarianism "in principle", regardless of how it's achieved?

        Depends on the socialist. State Socialists or Vanguardists certainly. Anarchists no. Anarchists consider that the means we use cannot be separated from the means. Unless of course you mean "regardless of how it's achieved?" in the sense of that we don't care if we achieve it via syndicalism, mutualism or something else, as long as we achieve it. In that you are correct.

  4. If you want to get technical, the Marxian notions of alienation and exploitation came long after the advent of "socialism," and within the scope of the original meaning and its subsequent developments, a whole lot is going to count as legitimately socialist — anything from meritocracy to individualist anarchism to Marxism.

    But even within the Marxian framework, socialism is not about objecting to private property as such, just to private property in the means of production. And Marx himself was not worried about the persistence of property titles in the means of production in the absence of current use; he was concerned about the exploitative nature of wage labor — an inescapable fact if you accept the Ricardian theory of value, which Marx did. The difference is somewhat important: if someone was actively working a piece of land and hired someone to help him with his bookkeeping, with the result that his farm was more profitable to him, the Marxian paradigm would insist that the accountant had been exploited. Not so with a purely use-based theory: on such a view, this arrangement might be perfectly just.

    If you want to abandon Ricardian value theory and still call yourself a socialist, you're going to be doing some revisionism — especially if you want to maintain that wage labor is exploitative while simultaneously rejecting the labor theory of value. But then it sort of seems like you're going to have to tolerate other sorts of revisionism in order to escape the charge that you, too, are no socialist. After all, I presume that you are not a Ricardian!

  5. I know very well that socialism has a history before Marx but in almost all the cases it was tied to the concepts of the workers owning the means of production, something which is not possible via wage-slavery.

    I don't understand why you presume I reject the labour theory of value. I do not.

  6. The difference is somewhat important: if someone was actively working a piece of land and hired someone to help him with his bookkeeping, with the result that his farm was more profitable to him, the Marxian paradigm would insist that the accountant had been exploited.

    Even under Marxian economics, such a relationship would depend on how it was formed. To be perfectly fair, the hours the accountant worked should be rewarded in the same amount of surplus-value as the hour the farmer did. Of course that would be a very difficult proposition, as would be the idea in general to try to define how much is a fair reward per labour-hour, which is why it's far better to not use money at all and co-operate within a communal system. But I'm not exactly clear on what this has to do with the post above.

  7. Db0:

    wow. Not even I realised that the fringes of the internet could yield such mentalness.

    And there I was thinking I had seen it all …

      1. what I mean is that I have come across propertarians calling themselves "left libertarians", but not ones who call themselves "libertarian socialists." It seems to me, though, that to call oneself a socialist when one is a propertarian is to suppress what makes socialism socialist.

        1. Ah ok. Yeah, I agree pretty much.

          Your original comment sounded as if you were making fun of me btw 🙂

          1. oh no! sorry, I didn't mean to make fun of you at all, rather the nutty fringe that is internet "losertarianism".

            I find it bizarre that some in this tendency appropriate the language of libertarian socialism, even though the ideology is based on Austrian economics, which evolved in part to combat the labour-based revolutionary and reformist movements that make up socialism.

            That, and it rests on a bizarre definition of capitalism as "state driven monopolization of capital".

  8. Let me just make sure I understand what you're saying here:

    "So unless your main purpose is to manage to allow all workers to own the capital and land they are working on, you are no socialist."

    It seems like a lot of what you're saying centers on what part of an ideology is negotiable or emphasized. Consider the mutualist orientation, for instance. What if I advocate a system in which I predict the outcomes will be roughly (or even exactly) equivalent to those you advocate: worker ownership of the means of production, an end to wage labor, no hierarchy, etc. However, I don't *say* that I am opposed to wage labor – I simply say I'm for conditions that make wage labor impossible or highly unworkable. Am I not a socialist because ending wage labor definitively and explicitly is not my goal, even though my goals would in fact eradicate the wage system?

    You see my point, I hope: is a socialist somebody who advocates socialist ideas, with all their rich theory and terminology, or rather, somebody who would effect a socialist world through their chosen ideas? If the latter class of ideologue is not socialist in your opinion, how then do you regard them?

    1. Am I not a socialist because ending wage labor definitively and explicitly is not my goal, even though my goals would in fact eradicate the wage system?

      But that's the point. You are in fact for abolishing wage-labour as you picked your suggested system in light of what you assume to be its end result. In a similar way, my goal is not simply to "end wage-llabour" but to achieve egalitarianism. This is why I suggest the abolition of PP. Like you, I am for conditions (Possessive ownership rights) that will make wage-labour impossible.

      But if one states it like this, they also correct in saying "I oppose wage-labour" as well if such a question is put to them no?

  9. "So unless your main purpose is to manage to allow all workers to own the capital and land they are working on, you are no socialist."

    I've been mulling over this concept for awhile, and I haven't quite figured out what my position on it makes me label-wise…

    My main purpose is to allow all workers the freedom to own the capital and land they work on, or not own it, depending on what they would prefer. (I, for example, do two kinds of work: the kind in which I most definitely DO NOT want to own the capital and land I work on, and I also do work in which I definitely DO want to own the capital and land I work on.)

    Since I believe that, as a worker, there are only certain circumstances in which I want to own the capital I work with, and circumstances in which I do not wish to own it, what does that make me? Mutualist? Socialist? Capitalist? Confused retard? Genius?

    1. I am not exactly certain under which circumstances you would not like to own what you work with. Can you give me an example?

    2. My approach is that as a worker, you can't contract away the fact that you automatically own the products of your labor. After production you always have a right over it due to the fact that you labored on it, but you can sell it to someone else. You can't sign a contract that says someone else did it and therefore owns the final products, because you're trying to mess with the fact of reality that you did the labor.

      1. I like to take a more practical approach. I recognize that a worker can sell the products of their labour before they are produced, i.e. sell their labour-time (and freedom) to a capitalist piecemeal but I also recognize that the only way for them to accept such a scenario is if there exists an inequality between them which means that the worker is passively coerced to "volunteer" to such an exploitative relationship.

        The reason I don't take your perspective is because it relies on a particular justification of ownership which is raised to an ideological standard. But since I consider all forms of ownership to be simply social constructs, I can't see it as something immutable.

        1. I see. I still take things from a somewhat principled approach, since I tend to treat principles as necessary for practicability. I'm not so hardset on those though– I keep evolving.

          Anyway, from talking with Aaron on this, his argument basically is that under a capitalist business, if it suffers a loss, the owner is the one who goes into debt while the workers still get their wages, and under a worker-owned socialist one the workers all share the loss if it goes bad, so some workers will choose to stay secure and go with the capitalist business. That's how he views it at least.

  10. I am writing a book on the cooperative movement coming at it from a more positive, inclusive, and flexible standpoint. I lean more in a mutualist direction, but can still see some advantage in capitalism and socialism in some contexts. I do think mutualism is a separate and distinct system from both capitalism and socialism. It supports private property and free markets like a capitalist, though private property law takes a bit different form. It also supports the labor theory of value and worker control over their industries which is more in line with socialism. I at this point see all three systems as imperfect but mutualism is the best overall. My book focuses on the creation of cooperatives in all areas of life including the social, political, economic, education, and religious aspects to co-op power back to the people directly. If people banded together locally in solidarity they can lesson the "need" and "power" of the state, corporations, and all other hierarchical institutions within society. Move away from the impersonal mechanistic institutions to ones that are more organic.

  11. It would imply that the dominant forms of socialist ideology..social-democracy and Leninism are crucial components of capitalism. It would imply, in fact, that even in the 1840s, as the Communist Manifesto was composed, capitalism itself was being articulated and developed by Marx and Engels.

    On the other hand, there are many things it would not imply. It would not imply anything particularly about the guiding ideal of socialism: a classless society where the economy is collectively planned for human benefit, and not for the power and wealth of an elite. Because that ideal is already quite remote from the historically dominant forms of socialist ideology. Indeed, it’s just as remote as the ideal of free, autonomous people striving for self-fulfilment and self-expression is from ‘individualist’ ‘liberal’ capitalist society.

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